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Update: Second worker dies following BC sawmill explosion

Prince George, BC -- A massive explosion and fire at the Lakeland sawmill April 23, 2012, has claimed a second life. The BC Coroner’s Office says the second man to die from his injuries was one of 24 people working in the sawmill...


Prince George, BC — A massive explosion and fire at the Lakeland sawmill April 23, 2012, has claimed a second life. The BC Coroner’s Office says the second man to die from his injuries was one of 24 people working in the sawmill when it exploded and burned.

He was originally taken to University Hospital of Northern BC, then flown by air ambulance to Edmonton for more specialized care and died there on April 24.

The coroner’s office says the man’s identity will not be released until all next of kin have been notified.

The April 23 blast also killed shift supervisor Alan Little, 43. Nine other workers were in serious or critical condition.

Workers on the evening shift at the Prince George, BC, sawmill had to run for their lives after the earth-shaking explosion and massive fire sent walls crumbling on top of them.

It was the second deadly explosion this year, prompting the BC government to announce all sawmills in the province will now be inspected for safety.

Labour Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said she will “send an order out to all the sawmills in the province asking them, telling them, instructing them to inspect from top to bottom their mills, to make sure all steps are being taken to address current safety policy.”

“We’re devastated by the news of this incident and our thoughts are with our employees and their families,” said Greg Stewart, president of Sinclar Group Forest Products.

In all, Lakeland said 24 people were in the sawmill when the blast occurred, a further 16 were in the planer mill next door and four were working in the yard.

He wouldn’t speculate on whether his company will rebuild the mill, but he noted it’s been an important part of the community for a long time.

Sinclar acquired the mill in 1973. There was a small fire in an outbuilding last month that was caused by dust on a halogen bulb. It caused $25,000 damage and no one was hurt.

According to the company website, about 170 people work at the facility. The sawmill and planer mill complex includes a hot oil energy system for drying lumber. The website said the mill’s primary products are premier-grade, kiln-dried studs. The mill also supplies fibre for two bioenergy systems, including the district energy plant.

In January 2012, an explosion and fire killed two workers at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, about 230 kilometres northwest of Prince George.

WorkSafe BC is still investigating the cause, but the mill was flattened and 250 people were thrown out of work.

[Editor’s note: see our guide to understanding, preventing and controlling dust explosions. Part 1,  ‘Dust, Dangerous Dust’, appeared in Machinery & Equipment MRO, September 2011, and is archived at https://www.mromagazine.com/news/dust-dangerous-dust/1001040106/.  Part 2, ‘Great Balls of Fire’, appeared in Machinery & Equipment MRO, November 2011, and is archived at https://www.mromagazine.com/news/great-balls-of-fire/1001040100/.]